WASHINGTON — Former President George H.W. Bush is returning to Washington as a revered political statesman, hailed by leaders across the political spectrum and around the world as a man not only of greatness but also of uncommon decency and kindness.
Bush, who died late Friday at his Houston home at age 94, is to be honored with a state funeral in the nation's capital on Wednesday. Following an arrival ceremony Monday, his body will lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda for a public viewing until Wednesday morning.
President Donald Trump, who ordered federal offices closed for a national day of mourning on Wednesday, is to attend with first lady Melania Trump and other high-ranking officials.
Trump ordered American flags to be flown at half-staff for 30 days to honor a man of "sound judgment, common sense and unflappable leadership." The president and the first lady added that Bush had "inspired generations of his fellow Americans to public service."
Bush will be laid to rest Thursday on the grounds of his presidential library at Texas A&M University.
The school announced Saturday that Bush will be buried at the family plot next to his wife, Barbara, who died in April, and their 3-year-old daughter, Robin, who died in 1953. Texas A&M University President Michael Young said no classes will be held on the day of Bush's burial.
Bush didn't attend Texas A&M but in 1991 chose the campus as the library's site. The campus is located about 90 miles northwest of Houston, where Bush lived.
Bush's crowning achievement as president was assembling the international military coalition that liberated the tiny, oil-rich nation of Kuwait from invading neighbor Iraq in 1991 in a war that lasted just 100 hours. He also presided over the end of the Cold War between the United States and the former Soviet Union.
"We didn't agree much on domestic policy, but when it came to the international side of things, he was a very wise and thoughtful man," former Massachusetts Gov Michael Dukakis, a Democrat who lost the presidency to Bush in 1988, told The Associated Press on Saturday. He credited Bush's ability to negotiate with former Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev as playing a key role.
"It was a time of great change, demanding great responsibility from everyone," Gorbachev told the Interfrax news agency. "The result was the end of the Cold War and nuclear arms race."
During that time and after, Gorbachev said, he always appreciated the kindness Bush and his family showed him.
In Washington, the former Republican president won praise from leaders of both parties.
Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan lauded him for leading the nation with "decency and integrity," while Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi said it was a "privilege to work with him."
Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee said Bush "befriended political foes, reminding Americans that there is always more that unites us than divides us."
At the G-20 summit in Argentina, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was raised in then-divided East Germany, told reporters she likely would never have become her country's leader had Bush not pressed for the nation's reunification in 1990.
A humble hero of World War II, Bush was just 20 when he survived being shot down during a bombing run against Japan. He had enlisted in the U.S. Navy on his 18th birthday.
Shortly before leaving the service, he married his 19-year-old sweetheart, Barbara Pierce, a union that lasted until her death earlier this year.
After military service, Bush enrolled in Yale University, where he would become a scholar-athlete, captaining the baseball team to two College World Series before graduating Phi Beta Kappa after just 2½ years.
After moving to Texas to work in the oil business, Bush turned his attention to politics in the 1960s, being elected to his first of two terms in Congress in 1967. He would go on to serve as ambassador to the United Nations and China, head of the CIA and chairman of the Republican National Committee before being elected to two terms as Ronald Reagan's vice president.
Soon after he reached the zenith of his political popularity following the liberation of Kuwait, the U.S. economy began to sour, however, and voters began to believe that Bush, never a great orator, was out of touch with ordinary people.
He lost his bid for re-election to then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, who would later become a close friend. The pair worked together to raise tens of millions of dollars for victims of a 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and Hurricane Katrina, which swamped New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in 2005.
"Who would have thought that I would be working with Bill Clinton of all people?" he joked in 2005.
Clinton said he would be "forever grateful" for that friendship.
About 11,000 people filled the Devaney Sports Center on June 13, 1989, to hear President George H.W. Bush make a speech about the future of alternative fuels.
A few hours earlier, the president had toured the University of Nebraska's Center for Engine Technology on East Campus, and in his speech he praised the work being done there and touted the use of ethanol fuel.
"Nebraska's going to make it work," Bush said. "These alternative fuels are going to take the market by storm."
In her introductory remarks, then-Nebraska Gov. Kay Orr applauded the president for his commitment to the environment.
"We are honored that you have come to Nebraska to focus national attention on your proposals to protect our environment and turn the winds of pollution into clean air," Orr said. "You've come to the right place to talk about responsibility for the environment."
The highly anticipated visit was just one of several to Nebraska by Bush, both before and during his presidency. Bush died Friday at the age of 94.
In 1978, as former CIA director, Bush made a stop in Lincoln to help raise money for gubernatorial candidate Charley Thone. The private, $100-a-ticket event, raised nearly $10,000 for Thone, who would go on to be Nebraska's governor from 1979-83.
The two remained close friends, and in 1980, Thone was one of six Republican leaders who sat down with Ronald Reagan in a Detroit hotel room to consider who should be Reagan's running mate. Reagan floated the idea of former President Gerald Ford; but Thone argued for Bush, the man Reagan eventually chose.
Then in 1988, Nebraska's Republican convention delegates were startled and pleased when Bush stood at the podium in New Orleans preparing to accept his party's presidential nomination, spotted Thone standing by the Nebraska banner and said: "Hi, Charley."
The state's top elected officials shared their thoughts on Bush's legacy on Saturday.
"President George H.W. Bush served the American people with honor, diligence, and integrity — from his Naval service to the Oval Office," Sen. Ben Sasse said in a statement. "His family knows well the sacrifices required of public service and they have the gratitude of our entire country."
Sasse was connected to the Bush family from his time teaching at the University of Texas in the mid-2000s. Then in July 2007, he was nominated by President George W. Bush to the post of assistant secretary for planning and evaluation in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts and Sen. Deb Fischer also released statements Saturday.
"President George H.W. Bush will be remembered as a devoted husband, loving father, committed statesman and a great man of faith," Ricketts said. "… As president, he carried on Reagan's legacy in taking on communism as the Berlin Wall fell and helped expand trade with our neighbors, Mexico and Canada."
Added Fischer: "A member of the Greatest Generation, President Bush humbly served the country he loved. George H.W. Bush was a patriot, a leader, and a decent man who had a noble spirit."
An on-again, off-again argument between two branches of Nebraska government is back on.
Nebraska Ombudsman Marshall Lux sent a lengthy memorandum to state senators in mid-November laying out his concern about a bitter argument between the legislative and judicial branches regarding oversight.
What's at stake, according to Lux, is whether the state's Probation Administration will allow Julie Rogers, inspector general for child welfare, to investigate as she sees fit cases of death or serious injury of children involved in the juvenile justice system.
The juvenile justice system has been managed by the state's Probation Administration since 2013, when state law transferred responsibility for all delinquent and youth status offenders from the Department of Health and Human Services to the Administrative Office of Probation.
Probation Administration is supervising hundreds of children and adolescents under the state's authority and is responsible for spending millions of taxpayer dollars, Lux said.
"Clearly these are appropriate areas for legislative oversight," he said.
Rogers' investigations of death and serious injuries are about the protection of vulnerable children, he said, a sincere effort to look deeply into tragic events so that they can be avoided in the future.
Without Rogers' oversight, for example, the December 2017 report on sexual assault of foster children and youth in the juvenile justice system would not have have brought to light.
"We can't have children dying and being sexually abused, among all the other terrible things that could happen, and not be trying to learn from it," Lux said. "We can't undo what's happened, but we can try to learn from it and make the system better."
The Office of the Inspector General of Child Welfare was created by the Legislature in 2012 to provide an independent review of the juvenile justice and child welfare systems. It was seen as a way to improve transparency and accountability in those systems.
But several times, Probation Administration has offered limited cooperation with Rogers, who is also an attorney, Lux said.
It's more than an argument over arcane matters of protocol, Lux said.
Probation Administration officials describe it as a conflict over separation of powers. It's a crisis when branches of government are arguing over each other's limits of authority, Lux said.
Probation Administration sent new demands to Rogers this summer regarding her investigations, "without warning, prelude or mutual deliberation of any kind," Lux said.
Officials declared that direct communication with its office "will not be responded or replied to in any manner," and the office canceled meetings that Rogers had arranged related to an investigation.
They directed their staff not to respond to emails, telephone calls, texts or other such communication from Rogers. They electronically blocked emails sent by Rogers to Ellen Brokofsky, the probation administrator.
And any requests for interviews must be accompanied by a list of specific questions.
Those barriers, Lux said, will seriously inhibit Rogers' ability to carry out meaningful and competent investigations into child deaths and serious injuries.
State Court Administrator Corey Steel wrote to Lux on Aug. 31 saying Rogers repeatedly used emails, and forwards and courtesy copies to others, when communicating with Probation Administration staff. An informal email exchange is not acceptable, given the gravity of the investigations involving death, sexual abuse or other serious injuries of juveniles, he said.
A formal delivery and receipt system is required to protect information, he said. He also questioned Rogers' authority to do a systemwide investigation of the judicial branch, and said state law must authorize her access to records.
"As the Office of Probation Administration is part of the judicial branch," he said, "the (inspector general's) attempts to investigate and question judges' orders, or lack of orders, pertaining to specific cases raises grave constitutional concerns."
The existence of the office of inspector general itself raises separation of powers concerns, Steel added.
Lux told senators that any suggestion the problems were Rogers' fault was "unconvincing, to say the very least." Rogers is an accomplished, trained and certified inspector general.
Steel said this week the Probation Administration office will respond to communication requests by Rogers. The process outlined doesn't discourage or do anything to stop communication.
"The Supreme Court has set a process in place internally so that all communication that comes in to the clerk of the Supreme Court is logged," Steel said. "That way the Supreme Court knows all communication coming in and all communication going out."
That's so there's no miscommunication, text messages or emails, Steel said. Everything is replied to in writing through the clerk's office so everything is tracked and documented, like anything else that comes in through the Supreme Court.
"We want to make sure that (the probation staff) are protected, as well, and that they know what questions are being asked and they have the right to counsel there to represent them during that questioning," he said.
But Lux said giving questions beforehand is not how to conduct investigations.
When the new rules came down, Rogers was in the middle of a systemwide investigation involving three deaths and 15 critical incidents. She had interviewed 15 to 20 probation employees in three districts, and had set interviews for other districts. Everyone knew the subject of the investigation, she said.
When the interviews were cut off, "we were getting cooperation from the local level," she said. "I don't know if we stumbled upon something, or we were about to … because no one will talk to me about why."
Steel said questioning of judicial orders was of utmost concern.
Judges have oversight of every probation case and probation officers can only carry out the orders.
Still, Nebraska law requires all employees of Probation Administration to cooperate with the inspector general, and to be encouraged to fully comply with reasonable requests in the course of investigations. Also, employees must not be subject to asking supervisory approval prior to providing records or information.
To be successful, Rogers' reports and analysis must be "firmly grounded in facts," Lux said, which is why full cooperation from both the Department of Health and Human Services and Probation Administration is critical.
There is no reason, he said, that the relationship with Probation Administration should be "fraught with opposition, acrimony, angst or difficulties of any kind."
The ombudsman's office is committed to transparency, accountability and legislative oversight as "absolutely essential to good government," Lux said. Taxpayers should be able to expect positive working relationships among government officials.
If Probation Administration is going to continue this on-again, off-again cooperation with the inspector general, Lux said, he would recommend repealing the law that gives the inspector general oversight of Probation Administration.
"If there's not a way forward, then I think we're going to have to pull the plug so that we don't have to have this issue resolved in court where the answer could well be bad for the whole idea of legislative oversight," Lux said.
Lincoln Sen. Adam Morfeld has said he will look into submitting a bill.
"I wish the courts would be more transparent," he said. "I don't understand why the court system thinks it's immune to accountability and oversight."
Lux would anticipate two bills: One to delete the jurisdiction of the inspector general over Probation Administration; another to propose moving juvenile justice services back to the Department of Health and Human Services.
HHS, he said, has a positive and long-established record of working cooperatively with the inspector general.